This is the first part of a mystery. The second part can be found on my blog on May 7th.
Brice Montgomery, victim, extreme rock climber, reality TV star and heir to a whiskey distillery
Hans Steiner – Producer of the show Extreme Climbing
Kyle Temple– Rock Climber, Brice’s friend
Sadie Temple- Kyle’s sister, one of Brice’s conquests
Riley Gardner- camera woman
Maxine Montgomery – Brice’s sister
Kyle Temple took a drink of water, wiped the sweat from his face with his t-shirt, and peered up the side of Dihedrals a climbing cliff in Smith Rock State Park. A snap and twang echoed in the canyon as Brice Montgomery plummeted the other eighty feet to the base of the cliff.
Kyle scrambled over the rocks to his best friend. “Brice! Brice! God no!” He could tell by the vacant stare and blood pooling around the star of the TV reality show Extreme Climbing that there was little to be done.
“Call 911.” He said to the show’s producer.
“You can’t tell me this was an accident.” Kyle Temple poked his pointer finger at the State Trooper overseeing the removal of his best friend’s body from the bottom of the Dihedrals. Brice’s muscled body had limbs at odd angles and his bent neck made Kyle’s stomach sour.
“We won’t know anything conclusive until we’ve run tests.” The trooper motioned for the paramedics and stretcher to move into the area.
A crowd had gathered. Kyle peered up the cliff he and Brice were climbing for a segment of Brice’s show Extreme Climbing. The rope Brice used to rappel down the cliff had snapped like a thin string. As the moment replayed in Kyle’s mind, he noticed someone on the top of the cliff pulling the rope up.
“Hey!” He grabbed the officer’s shirt sleeve. “Someone’s trying to take the faulty rope.” He pointed up to the cliff top as the person disappeared from sight as well as the end of the rope. Kyle picked up the other half of the rope still attached to his friend. “Don’t let anyone get this. It’s evidence.”
Kyle peered at the gathering crowd. Where were Hans and Riley? They should have both been at the bottom. They’d been here filming as he rappelled down. The only thing he could do for Brice now was find his killer.
The trooper put the rope in a clear bag and wrote on the bag. He nodded to Kyle to follow him. They stepped away from the crowd.
“Tell me everything that happened.” The trooper pulled out a tablet and pen.
Kyle thought back to this morning. He’d woke first and decided to take a stroll before the other rose. Stepping out of Brice’s fancy motor home, he’d inhaled the pungent scent of juniper and soaked in the heat of the sunshine on his face. How could such a perfect day have gone so wrong?
“We rose at six. Wanted to scale the cliff before it was too hot. Riley Gardner, the photographer, said she wanted the morning light on the cliff as she photographed.” That flashed a picture of the hurt look on Riley’s face the night before when his sister, Sadie, stepped out of Brice’s car and clung to his arm as the two enter the motor home. Sadie and Brice had an on-again-off-again relationship for five years. Kyle had stayed out of it. He wanted to remain a loyal friend to Brice and not argue with his sister.
Brice had left Sadie in the bed in the back of the motor home and joined Kyle to check over their climbing equipment. Where was Sadie right now? “I need to tell my sister what happened.”
“Not until you’ve told me everything.” The trooper leveled his gaze on Kyle.
“We, Brice and I, checked the gear. Everything was fine. Hans, the producer and Riley, pulled up on a Gator and we loaded the equipment in the back. We grabbed energy bars and water and hopped in with him. He hauled us down to the base of the Dihedrals and we unloaded the gear. Hans remembered something they needed for filming and left. Riley stayed with us to check the lighting while Hans went back. When we started setting out our gear we noticed some of it was still in the back of the gator.” Kyle stared hard at the trooper. Was the gear still in the gator the rope that snapped?
Kyle backtracked in his mind, but wasn’t certain. He remembered taking tags off new rope, but he wasn’t sure if it was his or the one Brice used.
“Was this Montgomery’s first climb?”
Kyle stared at the trooper as if his head just dropped to the ground. “Don’t you know who Brice Montgomery is? He is the star of the reality show Extreme Climbing. He’s climbed every cliff that he’s come across. There is no way his fall was an accident.”
The trooper scribbled in his pad. “Had the equipment you used been used before?”
“Only our personal harnesses. Brice purchases new rope every climb. That’s how careful he is.”
“What happened when he fell?”
“We both climbed up the Sunshine. Sat at the top, drank water, and ate an energy bar. Watched a bald eagle and talked for about thirty minutes waiting for Riley and Hans to get set up below for the rappel.”
“What did you talk about?”
Kyle sighed. “Family, or more precisely the fact his family was pressuring him to give up the rock climbing show and put his interest in the family business.” Brice had complained his father wanted him to join the board at the family business and his sister wanted to take that position. He wanted to let her have it but his father was of the old school that a male heir should run the business and not a female.
The trooper’s eyebrow rose. “He didn’t get along with his family? Do they live around here?”
“He got along fine as long as they didn’t talk about the family business. No, they live back east.”
“What happened when you rappelled down?”
“Brice told me to go first, he wanted a few minutes alone to clear his head.” He still wasn’t sure what that was about but he was pretty sure it had to do with his sister’s call yesterday asking Brice to pick her up at the airport. When they’d arrived at the motorhome she was bubbling and Brice had appeared to be brooding.
“Was that the normal procedure?”
He’d been on several shows with Brice and he always had the guest go first. “Yes.”
“I rappelled down, unhooked, shouted up ‘off rappel’ and asked Hans for a water bottle.” Kyle’s body flinched remembering the next sounds. “I heard a snap and Brice shouted. I looked up.” The same panic and sick feeling in his gut struck remembering the sight. “His body was falling rapidly. There was nothing any of us could do to stop his fall.” The feeling he’d failed his friend lodged in Kyle’s chest digging and prodding like bronc rider’s spurs.
“What was the snap sound?”
“I assume the rope breaking.”
“Does this happen often?”
“No. Especially not with a new rope.”
The trooper stared at him. “Tell me about the snap sound?”
“Kyle! Is it true?” Sadie, Kyle’s sister, ran up to him, flinging her arms around his neck.
“Shh… yes. Brice fell—”
“Will he be…”
He shook his head and Sadie started wailing.
“Miss?” The trooper touched Sadie’s shoulder.
“This is Sadie Temple my sister. Brice’s friend.” His friend slept with his sister, but they didn’t introduce themselves as a couple when they met new people. Kyle had picked up on that oddity over the years and did the same.
“Miss Temple, where have you been?” The trooper asked.
“I was back at the motor home waiting for Brice and my brother to finish taping so we could go for a drive.” She wiped at the tears streaming down her cheeks and turned to him. “What happened?”
“The rope broke.”
Her eyes widened, and she shook her head slowly. “Then he’s…”
“I couldn’t do anything. He just…” Kyle bit the inside of his cheek and wished like hell there had been something he could have done to prevent the fall.
“Where’s Hans and Riley?” Sadie demanded.
“I wish I knew.” Kyle scanned the area. The paramedics were making their way up the other side of the Crooked River Gorge, Brice’s body on a gurney between them. The spectators had left. The only people milling about the spot where Brice landed were police officers taking measurements and bagging the equipment.
“They should know the police would want to talk with them.” Sadie blew her nose in a tissue.
The trooper talked into his radio. “Put a road block up at the entrance to the park. We have two missing witnesses.”
Sadie turned to Kyle. “What am I going to do?”
He stared at his sister. “Continue life as you always do when you and Brice were ‘seeing other people’.”
She slugged him in the chest. “That’s not funny. I’m pregnant.”
That made sense of all Brice’s actions since picking up Sadie. “Sis, I’m… Is it Brice’s?”
“Now you sound just like him and his sister.”
“You’ve talked to Maxine?”
“Yes, she flew out with me yesterday. She stayed in town, something about trying to set up a west coast distillery.”
“Did Brice see her?”
“We had dinner together.”
Why hadn’t Brice told him this bit of information when he was lamenting about the family? Had he decided a family man should take over the family business?
Copyright 2013 Paty Jager
Who do you think killed Brice? Leave your thoughts in the comments section and then hop over to my personal blog on May 7th to read the ending.